photosynthetic colour change. photos (click pic) by: 1. justin schmauser; 2. torsten silz; 3. zoomboy1; 4. justin schmauser; 5. anymotion; 6. jim bolden sr.; 7. jaqueline d’ella; 8. zoomboy1: 9. justin schmauser; 10. alister c.
Fall is coming to an end, the sun sinks lower every day, and the chill of early winter has fallen across much of the northern hemisphere.
That means that, in places where leaves actually change color (AKA “not in Austin, where I live”), green has long given way to fiery reds and oranges, and that fire has since fallen to the ground, extinguished by garden rakes or decomposition, or blown out by brisk winds.
Hold on to these macro photos of color-changing leaves as a memory of the passing season. As the days have grown shorter, these plants have stopped producing as much green chlorophyll, and their carotenoids and anthocyanins shine through in bright canary and deep vermillion hues. You can also observe their veins, weaving beneath the leaf’s scaly epidermis, cutting cracks like a drying desert pond.
Here’s a less poetic diagram:
This is the beauty that lies in knowing, the science in the details, the wonder of the changing seasons.
A Grander Canyon
Last Friday, a rare and beautiful thing happened in Arizona’s Grand Canyon. It filled with fog. We’re used to seeing clouds above the Grand Canyon…
…not IN it. This cottony ocean was caused by a meteorological phenomenon called a temperature inversion.
A temperature inversion is when the normally warm layer of air near the Earth’s surface, normally heated by convection currents from the sun-baked land beneath it, is replaced by a colder air mass. This can happen when a warm front flows over the top of a cooler one, often in winter months.
Although the desert air in Arizona is pretty arid, as the cool atmosphere poured into the canyon, what little water there was condensed into clouds, flowing like waterfalls and filling the mighty canyon with a billowing ocean.
(images via Grand Canyon National Park on Facebook)
Eclipse at 44,000 feet
This photo is beyond words, but I’ll try anyway! While many awesome eclipse photos floating around the interwebs are fake (like this one), I assure you this otherworldly scene is 100% real.
It’s incredible for not only what it shows, but how ridonkulously difficult it was to take in the first place:
Last weekend’s solar eclipse (as seen here from space) was a short one, and it traced much of its inky path over the Atlantic ocean, meaning that, unless you were a particularly astronomically-minded whale, you didn’t get to see it first-hand.
That didn’t stop the folks behind this photo. Ben Cooper and his team chartered a jet out of Bermuda and set off to intercept the eclipse over the open ocean.
Here’s where it gets tough. Their plane was flying at 500 mph, aiming perpendicularly (north-south) across the path of the eclipse. The moon’s shadow, crossing in front of the sun, was traveling across the Atlantic at 8,000 mph. From their longitude, the eclipse was only set to last 10-15 seconds. They had to essentially hit a bullet with another bullet, in a ten second window, and take a picture of it to boot.
And what a picture they got! Just an instant after totality the sun is beginning to creep out from behind the moon, creating a “diamond ring” effect. The plane and the clouds below are bathed in darkness, while billows along the horizon glow, still bathed in non-eclipsed light. Wow.
If you need me, I’ll be staring at this for a few hours.
Goniurellia tridens is the “come at me bro” of fruit flies, carrying two menacing ant shapes as a defensive display.
If you missed it last night, check out these amazingly-disguised moths and butterflies that I saw on a tour of UF’s Lepidoptera collection last weekend. Just when I think I’ve found the coolest decoy coloring, I see something like this … what else ya got, nature?
(photo by Peter Roosenschoon, which is a very cool name)
A Universe on the Head of a Pin
Nikon’s Small World photomicrography winners for 2013 have been announced, and they are as marvelous as ever.
If you’re like me, you enjoy the idea of discovering new worlds, being star stuff, the universe knowing itself, and all that jazz. And when we speak of accessing a universe that we never before knew existed, we naturally look to space. We are regularly transported beyond the here and now through the lens of the telescope. First we used visible light, and then ventured into further reaches of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is such a humble invention, and it has so humbled our species.
The microscope is just a telescope turned on its end. It has, like its distant-gazing predecessor, transported us to new worlds and new discoveries. And it has also changed how humans view their place in the universe, perhaps even more profoundly than the telescope. Since the era of Hooke and van Leeuwenhoek, observations of the small world have shaken the idea that man is in some way a privileged creature.
Not only are we but a speck among infinite specks in the universe, but we are merely one arrangement of living matter in a world full of it, a single page in a book of splendor, thriving at every scale.
How lucky we are to be the only ones who know it!
Anyway, I respect the Nikon judges’ decisions and all, but I picked my own list of favorites here. Enjoy (from top):
- This section of muscle and nerve reminds me so much of Ramon y Cajal it’s not funny.
- The fluorescently-labeled nerves of an 11-day-old mouse embryo and the painted bones of a chameleon.
- The “atomic Velcro” foot pad of a beetle and the molecular might of a spider’s web trapping an insect.
- Images go abstract with swirling silicon dioxide and a turtle’s retina.
- Last but not least, it’s a freakin’ parasitic wasp larva coming out of a spider.
Enjoy the rest in Nikon’s gallery.
Jason Isley’s Marine Miniatures
The ocean is full of treasures for the eyes. Anyone who’s looked at a gallery of nudibranchs knows that. But eventually, a picture of a fish is just a picture of a fish.
Jason Isley, an underwater photographer for ScubaZoo, decided to spice it up a bit by adding miniature people to the mix in his Underwater Minitaures series on Flickr. In his photos, the reef is transformed into an alien world full of giant (sea)horses, terrifying sand eels, and toxic-orange gardens of whoknowswhat. The way he matches the miniatures to the marine biology is both hilarious and admirable.
Not all of his creations are so lighthearted, though. One paints a “fish bomb” scene (a destructive fishing method using dynamite) as CSI case. And many zoom in on the tiny toxic waste and plastic garbage dumps that litter our oceans.
I’ve selected a few of my favorites here, and Christie Wilcox has a lot more over at Science Sushi (which is where I found them). Go tour Jason Isley’s full gallery on his Flickr page.
Extended Exposure: A sampling of long-exposure and multiple-exposure photography from NASA. Take a long look.
Doesn’t include my favorite long exposure image of all time, though: The Hubble Extreme Deep Field, a 2 million second look into the deepest corners of space, almost to the edge of time itself.
Glow with the Flow
Wind tunnel test of an experimental wing design from NASA painted with fluorescent oil to highlight flow patterns.
Follow that aerodynamic awesomeness with a video about how Game of Thrones animators designed Khaleesi’s dragons with the help of a computerized wind tunnel (via WIRED):
And finally, check out this kayaker going with the flow, fluid dynamics seen in foaming river (via Lucas Gilman):
(top image via NASA)